- In a new interview with The New York Times, presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was asked whether he thinks Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg holds too much power. “Yes,” Buttigieg said. “No one should have that kind of power.”
- Buttigieg pointed to Facebook’s refusal to fact-check political ads as one of the issues with the company, for which Facebook has experienced frequent criticism.
- Zuckerberg has said that he would welcome clearer rules for the internet, and hinted at a desire for more oversight.
- Buttigieg and Zuckerberg attended Harvard University at the same time and, according to Buttigieg “got a lot of mutual friends.” The two have met on several occasions in recent years and Zuckerberg and his wife suggested hires for the Buttigieg campaign.
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Pete Buttigieg might have a friendly relationship with Silicon Valley, but that didn’t stop him from critiquing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
In a new interview with The New York Times’ Editorial Board, the South Bend mayor and presidential candidate was asked whether he thinks Zuckerberg holds too much power. Buttigieg’s answer was a resounding “yes.”
“No one should have that kind of power,” Buttigieg said, adding that a social network like Facebook was a “natural monopoly.”
“The real problem is how a corporation of that size acquires other competitors and develops certain powers,” he said. “And then, there’s a problem of their refusal to accept their responsibility for speech that they make money from. So, if a cable company, or a newspaper, if somebody can show that an ad that you all were going to run is false, you would pull it, and yet Facebook doesn’t want to hold themselves to that same standard.”
Buttigieg was referring to Facebook’s refusal to fact-check political ads on its platform. The company announced last October that politicians would be exempt from the company’s fact-checking policies, which meant that political ads could, in theory, contain misinformation.
Since the announcement, Facebook and Zuckerberg have come under fire numerous times, but the CEO has refused to change the policy — he argues that it’s a matter of free speech and not something Facebook should police.
In response to Buttigieg’s comments, a spokesperson for Facebook pointed Business Insider to Zuckerberg’s speech at Georgetown University last fall, in which he addressed the issues of free speech and Facebook’s power, and hinted that further government oversight is needed.
“I understand people are concerned that we have so much control over how they communicate on our services,” Zuckerberg said at the time. “And I understand people are concerned about bias and making sure their ideas are treated fairly. Frankly, I don’t think we should be making so many important decisions about speech on our own either. We’d benefit from a more democratic process, clearer rules for the internet, and new institutions.”
A friendly relationship
Buttigieg’s comments about Zuckerberg are a bit of a surprise given the candidate’s relationship with the CEO, and with Silicon Valley at large.
Back in 2017, Zuckerberg made a surprise visit to South Bend, driving around the city with Buttigieg and recording two Facebook Live videos. The visit was part of Zuckerberg’s pledge to visit states he hadn’t been to throughout 2017.
In October, Bloomberg reported that Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, had privately recommended hires for the Buttigieg campaign. Two of those recommendations were ultimately hired, Bloomberg reported.
Buttigieg and Zuckerberg both attended Harvard University in the early 2000s, and Buttigieg noted to The Times that he and Zuckerberg “were in college at the same time, got a lot of mutual friends, and it doesn’t mean we agree on a lot of things.”
In December, Buttigieg attended a fundraising dinner in Napa Valley that was reportedly attended by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; Nicole Shanahan, who’s married to Google cofounder Sergey Brin; Wendy Schmidt, who’s married to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt; and Michelle Sandberg, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s sister.
The Times asked Buttigieg whether Silicon Valley is “adequately afraid” of him, noting that other candidates — such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders, who have both publicly called for Facebook to be broken up — are “much more bold, intense.”
“Yes,” Buttigieg replied. “And some of them seem to get a lot of support out of Silicon Valley, too, so I don’t know.”
Zuckerberg said earlier this year in leaked audio published by The Verge that an Elizabeth Warren presidency would “suck” for the company.